Illegal pot farms cause strain in Alpaugh water system

FRESNO, Calif.

Investigators at the Tulare County Sheriff's Office say in the last two weeks alone they've received 26 new cases for illegal marijuana cultivation. They're blaming medicinal marijuana for a majority of the problems.

The small community of Alpaugh has a history of water problems. Just a few years ago, residents couldn't even drink the water. Now that arsenic levels are finally near-normal levels, volunteers on Alpaugh's Water Board are dealing with a new problem.

"Everybody just can't understand well, water is water but we're set up with 250 people in the community that's what our well capacity is at and we're at 350 I believe it is right now." Ben Anderson says this past winter, the community's water well was getting filled every month. Now, it's filled every week.

Some residents are blaming what they believe are illegal marijuana grows popping up all over town. "I don't have problem with medical marijuana issue of it but where do they draw the line. What's the legal issue of it, you know how do we provide water to the community when they're using it for agriculture," Anderson said.

The Tulare County Sheriff's Office says detectives are investigating possible cases of illegal marijuana grows in Alpaugh. "In the Alpaugh I am aware of four different cases that our narcotics unit are working or investigating," Sgt. Chris Douglass said.

The small community Seville also has a number of water issues. Seville is also blaming illegal pot farms for using its water supply. Deputies are investigating six possible illegal grows there.

Sergeant Chris Douglass says their office has seen a jump in illegal marijuana operations when compared to last year. So much, that the Tulare County Sheriff's Office has formed a specific group of deputies to focus on illegal medicinal marijuana grows.

"We have investigated more on the Valley floor in regards to the medicinal marijuana especially... and we don't have as many up in the hills as we used to because people can just grow it down on the floor by getting medicinal permits," Sgt. Chris Douglass said.

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